Accession & Reign
On April 25, 1941, Sihanouk was declared the King of Cambodia, after King Sisowath Monivong, his grandfather, died.
The Empire of Japan overthrew the French administration in Cambodia on March 9, 1945, and urged the young King of the nation to declare independence. The twenty-two year old ruler was forced to do so, and was appointed the first Prime Minister of Cambodia nine days later.
On August 14, 1945, the foreign minister Son Ngoc Thanh was made the Prime Minister of Cambodia, by the Japanese invaders, but Thanh remained in office only for two months.
Norodom took over Yem Sambaur as Prime Minister of Cambodia, on April 28, 1950, acting in the capacity for a month. Two years later, he was re-elected, this time remaining in office for a longer period of time.
On November 9, 1953, Cambodia gained independence from France, and Sihanouk's effective administration as the king, started.
In 1955, the young king formed the political organization 'Sangkum Reastr Niyum', and gave up his throne for his father. In September, the former became Prime Minister of the nation, after winning a majority of votes at the parliamentary elections.
With intermittent spells as the prime minister, he was declared the head-of-state in the 1960 general elections, after his father passed away. The ruler was given the title of Prince, and three years later, he modified the constitution in a way that made him the head-of-state till his death.
In 1965, he signed a treaty with the People's Republic of China as well as with North Vietnam, allowing military transactions between Vietnam and China to take place through Cambodia. In return, the Chinese would have to buy rice from Cambodia at high prices.
During this time, the king advocated communism and suggested that the nation follow the ideals of Maoism. He also built a close relationship with Kim Il-sung, the leader of North Korea, both condemning the foreign policies followed by the U.S. in Asia.
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In 1970, the 'Sangkum Reastr Niyum' party was disbanded, and thus Norodom ceased to be its leader.
On March 18, 1970, the National Assembly along with military general Lon Nol ousted Sihanouk, and took over the administration of Cambodia. This happened when the deposed King was on a trip to Moscow, Russia, and he was forced to escape to Beijing in China.
In Beijing, this leader in exile established the 'National United Front of Kampuchea', an organization that collaborated with the 'Communist Party of Kampuchea', commonly known as 'Khmer Rouge'. The aim of the political organization was to bring an end to the administration of Cambodian Prime Minister Lon Nol.
In 1975, the 'Khmer Rouge' was able to capture Phnom Penh, and depose Lon Nol. While, Communist leader Pol Pot took actual control of the administration, Norodom was officially named the head-of-state of Cambodia.
The next year, the popular head-of-state was forced by the 'Khmer Rouge' to retire. In 1978, the 'Khmer Rouge' administration was ousted by the Vietnamese invasion, and Cambodian politician Heng Samrin, representing the 'People's Republic of Kampuchea', was made the head-of-state.
Sihanouk opposed this move and by 1982 he was appointed the President of the 'Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea'. The government-in-exile comprised of 'Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste', formed by Norodom himself, 'Khmer People's National Liberation Front', belonging to political leader Son Sann, and the 'Khmer Rouge'.
In 1989, the Vietnamese government left Cambodia, making political leader Hun Sen the representative of the 'People's Republic of Kampuchea ' party.
By 1991, the 'People's Republic of Kampuchea' and the 'Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea' signed a peace treaty in Paris, and Norodom's exile ended with the agreement.
Sihanouk was once more chosen as the King of Cambodia in 1993, but owing to health ailments, he spent more time in China.
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In 2004, the King of Cambodia moved to Pyongyang in North Korea and gave up his throne. Cambodian politician Chea Sim acted as head-of-state till Sihamoni, Sihanouk's son, was appointed the King, the following year.
This popular king had delivered several speeches during his lifetime, in Cambodia as well as in foreign states like San Francisco, New York, Nottingham, Auckland and Hamburg.
Personal Life & Legacy
This King was known to have had several wives, but he had legally married Princess Samdech Norleak and Paule Monique Izzi, both in 1955. His son Sihamoni, by Monique Izzi, is currently the King of Cambodia.
The famous ruler was a passionate filmmaker, having made movies like 'See Angkor and Die', 'The Last Days of Colonel Savath', and famous documentaries like 'Cortège Royal'.
Since 2005, he had been sick with B-Cell Lymphoma in his stomach, and also suffered from hypertension as well as diabetes.
This former King of Cambodia succumbed to a heart attack on October 15, 2012, in Beijing. His funeral was held at the Royal Palace in his homeland, and state flags were flown at half-staff as a mark of respect.
Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of United Nations, commemorated this ruler, lauding him for his contribution to his country's nationalist movement.
After his death, the 'National Television of Kampuchea' constantly aired a documentary based on his life.
According to news reports, more than 1,200,000 citizens had gathered near the Royal Palace to pay tribute to the deceased King. Posthumously, he was given the title of 'Preah Karuna Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preah Borom Ratanakkot' (The King who lies in the Diamond Urn).
Distinguished personalities who attended his cremation service were French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, and US ambassador to Cambodia William E. Todd, amongst others.
On October 11, 2013, a statue of the former King was unveiled in Phnom Penh by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Subsequently October 15 was declared a public holiday, as a symbol of respect.